After Three Israelis Killed, Israeli forces raid village of Khobar near settlement of Halamish

03:00 Jul 22 2017 Khobar (Kobar)

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF chief Gadi Eizenkot at the site of the attack in Halamish, July 22, 2017. Credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Published by Haaretz

Israeli forces in the West Bank settlement of Halamish following Friday's attack, July 21, 2017. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Published by Haaretz

Scenes: Photos courtesy of the al-Abed family. Published by Maan News

Israeli forces raid village of Khobar near settlement of Halamish overnight, imposing curfews and limiting movement out of the village to humanitarian cases only

by Gili Cohen for Haaretz
Jul 22, 2017 2:26 PM

Israeli defense officials fear that additional terrorists will attempt copycat attacks in the coming days based of Friday night's attack that left three dead in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

As a result, Israel is increasing alertness in all areas of the West Bank and placing thousands of additional troops in the area. An IDF official told Haaretz on Saturday that is on high alert in wake of the recent events in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israeli military forces imposed a closure on the Palestinian West Bank village of Khobar on Saturday and arrested the brother of the Palestinian who murdered three Israelis in the West Bank settlement of Halamish. A 60-year-old man and his son and daughter, both in their 40s, were stabbed to death, and a woman in her 60s was wounded in moderate-to-serious condition.

According to the army's orders, entry and exit from the village is prohibited, barring humanitarian cases. Israeli forces also took initial steps in preparing the assailant's house for demolition. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot visited the scene of the attack early Saturday, where they were briefed.

According to a Defense Ministry statement, Lieberman ordered to expedite the demolition of the homes of the assailants who carried out Friday's attack and the Temple Mount attack a week ago.

Lieberman has demanded that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and UN Secretary-General António Guterres "condemn the massacre that was carried out yesterday against an innocent family that didn't endanger anyone," the statment said. 

Farhan Haq, Guterres' deputy spokesman, issued a statement on Friday on behalf of the secretary general saying that the UN chief "strongly condemns" the "stabbing attack by a Palestinian perpetrator, which resulted in the death of three members of an Israeli family in the Halamish settlement in the occupied West Bank."

The spokesman said Guterres "conveys his condolences to the bereaved and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured," adding that the secretary general also cautioned against "any actions or words that could further escalate an already volatile situation."

After an initial investigation, Israeli security forces said the assailant, 18-year-old Omar al-Abed, identifies with Hamas, but is not considered an active member in the organization. Security forces believe al-Abed acted alone and bought the knife used in the attack in recent days as tensions surrounding the Temple Mount continued to grow.

The investigation also revealed that al-Abed jumped over the settlement fence Friday night and entered the family's house during Shabbat dinner. One of the women present managed to hide the children present in a side room and call for help from there. 90 minutes before the attack, al-Abed posted on Facebook that he wanted to "die for Al-Aqsa" after seeing how the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site was being "violated and desecrated."

Meanwhile, Israeli forces arrested four Palestinian youths in Jerusalem's Old City overnight on suspicion that they participated in clashes with police on Friday in East Jerusalem. The attack occurred after a day of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians around the Temple Mount. Three Palestinian youths were killed, two in East Jerusalem and one in the nearby town of Abu Dis.

Hamas praised the attack, with spokesperson Hussam Badran calling to "continue the intifada against the occupation at all friction points in support of the Al-Aqsa mosque." He added that the number of Palestinians who turned out to demonstrate proves that the Palestinian people are aware of the dangers surrounding Al-Aqsa, and that the Palestinian people must obtain their rights through force.

Israeli army raids, seals hometown of Palestinian assailant, detains brother

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- JULY 22, 2017 11:33 A.M. (UPDATED: JULY 22, 2017 6:58 P.M.)

Hours after a stabbing attack inside the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish in the central occupied West Bank left three Israelis dead, Israeli forces raided and imposed a military closure on the nearby hometown of the assailant, preventing residents from entering or leaving the village, and detained the attacker's brother. A raid into the town later Saturday afternoon sparked clashes.

The assailant, identified as 19-year-old Omar al-Abed, was shot and moderately wounded by an Israeli soldier, a neighbor to the victims who arrived to the scene of the attack after hearing shouting coming from the house, according to Israeli media reports.

Omar al-Abed’s uncle Ibrahim told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided Kobar village, located north of Ramallah city and just a few kilometers east of Halamish, at around 5 a.m. Saturday, stormed Omar’s family’s home, and handcuffed his siblings, mother, and father.

As Israeli soldiers searched the house for more than an hour, upending and destroying the family's furniture and belongings, Israeli forces interrogated each of the family members separately, asking if they had any knowledge of Omar’s intentions to carry out the attack.

The family insisted that they were surprised by the attack and said they had learned of it only after seeing reports on social media and news sites, Ibrahim said.

Israeli forces detained Omar’s 22-year-old brother Munir, a student at Birzeit University.

Israeli forces stormed and searched dozens of other houses in Kobar during the raid, including the home of the sister of Nael Barghouthi -- the longest serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody-- and stole an amount of money from her.

Israeli forces also detained another youth in the village identified by locals as Muhammad Asfour al-Barghouthi. However, an Israeli army spokesperson denied that a second Palestinians was detained in the village.

In response to request for comment on the raid, the spokesperson said that the army “surveyed the house of the assailant," presumably in preparation to punitively demolish it, and "confiscated weapons and money used for terror."

They confirmed Omar’s brother was in custody and that “movement out of the village is limited to humanitarian cases only.”

Later Saturday afternoon, a bulldozer escorted by Israeli army forces stormed the village, with locals fearing the troops were planning to carry out the punitive demolition immediately.

The raid sparked clashes at the northern entrance to the town, Ibrahim told Ma'an.

However, according to an Israeli army spokesperson, it was unlikely that Israeli forces would carry out the demolition right away, and said she was looking into reports of the clashes.

An army spokesperson later released a statement saying that Israeli forces carried out "engineering works" to enforce the security closure on the village, presumable referring to the installation of roadblocks at around Kobar.

The Israeli army also used a drone to take footage of al-Abed's house, and footage of Halamish was also taken by a balloon, according to the statement.

Attached in the statement was the aerial footage, as well as footage of the Israeli army raids into Kobar overnight and Saturday.

Punitive demolitions generally require approval in Israeli courts -- despite appeals to such orders by Palestinian families, who are often not accused of any wrongdoing, being rejected the vast majority of the time.

Israel's policy of punitive demolitions has been denounced as a form of collective punishment and "court-sanctioned revenge" by Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

The Israeli army had also reportedly detained a "suspicious" unarmed Palestinian near Halamish overnight Friday, according to Israeli media. An Israeli army spokesperson said he was currently in the custody of the Israel Security Agency, the Shin Bet.

The Israeli government has long faced criticism for its response to attacks, with rights groups saying severe security measures amount to collective punishment and a violation of international law.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim said the family had received conflicting reports regarding Omar’s health, and sources from inside the hospital said he was in critical condition and unable to move.

However, a spokeswoman from Rabin Medical Center in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva, where Omar was taken after being shot, told Ma’an he was in a "light condition" as of Saturday morning, and later reported he was discharged from the hospital and transferred to prison in the early evening.

She did not provide additional details on the extent of his injuries or the treatment he received.

Israeli media reported that al-Abed wrote on Facebook before carrying out the attack: "I have many dreams and I believe they will come true, I love life and I love to make others happy, but what is my life when they (Israel) murder women and children and defile our Al-Aqsa?"

The deadly attack took place after three Palestinians were killed -- two of them by Israeli police and one reportedly by an Israeli settler -- when large-scale civil disobedience demonstrations in Jerusalem erupted into violent clashes earlier on Friday.

Hundreds more unarmed Palestinians were wounded by Israeli forces, amid protests across the occupied territory against new security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City, imposed in the wake of a deadly shoot-out at the holy site last week that left three Palestinian assailants and two Israeli officers killed.

Palestinians have seen the measures at Al-Aqsa as the latest example of Israeli authorities using Israeli-Palestinian violence and tensions as a means of furthering control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and normalizing heightened measures by Israeli forces targeting Palestinians.
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